The skeleton was remarkably well preserved; even if he was a soldier, there were some lessons he just couldn't forget. But the way it was posed, hand in the air and mouth agape in silent screams as it protected its child... he didn't like it, not one fucking bit.
"Does it ever bother you? That you could've spent your life looking in a microscope instead of a sniper scope?" She was never going to let the subject drop. That was Sam, and there was no arguing with her.
"If they were so smart, how come they're so dead?" he grumbled instead as he studied the skeleton.
She shrugged. "We don't know. Maybe they just went with time."
Sometimes Sam forgot that he'd been raised by scientists too. He wasn't a fucking idiot. "You don't shield a baby from time."
"It may even be reversible..." Sam wasn't about to give in. She would argue her point of view until you either agreed, or proved she was wrong.
"It's irreversible." Something nagged at him. Sarge... there was something about him that was starting to set John on edge.
"You don't know that..."
"Doctor Carmack's condition is irreversible ..." This time even John wanted to argue with Sarge. Yes, soldier he may be, and he definitely preferred shoot first and ask questions later when a mutated monster was running after him, but they had Carmack subdued. They could save lives here... but the crack of a pistol quickly squashed that train of thought even as his sister exclaimed.
"...because Carmack's condition is that... he's dead."
This wasn't going to end well.
He'd known something was off with Sarge. God-fucking-damnit, he'd known! He'd sensed it! And now the Kid was lying on the floor, bleeding out through a hole in his throat, because he hadn't fucking done something about it. It was his duty as XO, and yet he'd let himself be blinded by his own faith in and loyalty to Mahonin. How could Sarge betray the Kid this way...
"It was his first mission!" John yelled. He knew he was being insubordinate, but this was fucking ridiculous. To kill one of his own men because he wanted to save lives... that was not something Asher Mahonin would do. Not the Asher he knew.
Mahonin was right in his face when he responded, and John could see the traces of insanity in his friend's eyes.
"And it's not gonna be my last."
He was dying. He didn't need an advanced degree to know that. Stupid fucking nanowalls. And Sam... Sam was being as stubborn as ever. Why didn't she just take the fucking grenade?
"John, stay with me, please."
There was no way he could make her that kind of promise now, but she was already fiddling with something, drawing a vial out of a small pouch at her side.
What's that?" he had a sneaking suspicion that he already knew. He could only hope he was wrong, and that she wasn't that fucking stupid.
"It's C-24. It's from Carmack's lab."
Oh hell no. "No."
"It could save you."
"No way, forget it." It was getting harder to speak now, but he wasn't going to let her do this. The risk was just too great.
"You're bleeding to death." She was begging him.
"No way Sam. I've done some bad things." Killed a lot of people, fought a lot of wars, did things that would make his twin sister sick to her stomach if she only knew.
"I know you," She insisted. He would've laughed if he could.
"You don't know me. You don't know..." what I've done. What I'm capable off.
"You're my brother." Her voice was calmer than before, serious as she looked into his eyes. "I know you."
"Wait." There was no talking her out of this. So... he had to prepare her. "Wait," He said again. "If I should turn into one of those demons..." he handed her his gun. "One through the heart, one through the head." He made sure she understood the importance of what he was saying, even though it felt like every part of him was on fire. "Don't you hesitate. Okay?"
"I won't need to." She always had too much fucking faith in him. "I know you. You're my brother."
The world went black.
He looked like Sarge, but the creature in front of him was not his best friend. Mahonin was dead. This thing... was a monster.
"Are you gonna shoot me?"
"Yea, I was thinking about it." His voice didn't betray any of the pain he felt at what he knew he needed to do, or the worry he felt for Sam.
"What you got left?"
Fuck, it felt so normal... just another day on the job, bantering back and forth. He could almost imagine Duke coming up with some smart-arsed remark just about now. He shrugged.
"Half a clip. You?"
The monster smirked, hefting the big fucking gun it was holding a little higher.
"I've got... one round ."
They fought, but he'd been the one to emerge victorious. He was the one, no longer fully human, who held a lame Sam as they made their way out of the hellhole, leaving everything – and nothing – behind.
Semper Fi, motherfucker.
They're arrested the moment they make it out. It takes the company less than a day to decide on their fate. He doesn't see Sam again for a long time. He doesn't see much of anything aside from four white walls, or experience anything but blinding pain, for a long time. He's pretty sure he dies a few times too, but he never stays dead...
It takes Sam five years to break him out of the UAC holding facility.
It takes ten years for them to realize that he's not just immortal and invulnerable, but that he's not aging either.
It takes twenty years to dispose of all the UAC research... and all the researchers. Sam's too busy with the official launch of UESPA to notice. Just like Sam... her first encounter with an alien civilization didn't frighten her away from the prospect of dealing with more of them. No, she needs to be one of the founders of an agency dealing specifically with aliens. Fucking Vulcans, and fucking Zephram Cochrane.
It takes Sam a year after that to figure out what he's done, and three more before she finally forgives him. Really forgives him.
It takes her another ten years to work up the courage to tell him that he needs to leave. She's sixty eight, and people think he's her son. He's not surprised when she tells him; he'd been waiting for it. She was doing it for his sake, and he needed to leave for hers. UAC might be gone, but there were others like them. If anyone found out just what was coursing through his blood...
He is surprised, however, when she reveals just what she'd prepared for him. Documents, money... everything he needed to start a new life.
She dies thirteen years later, at the age of eighty one. He watches from the shadows as they bury her... her family. His family, although none of them would ever know him. She's surrounded by them, by colleagues and admirers. They even erect a statue in her honour. They keep it, even after UESPA becomes Starfleet, but replace it with a statue of Zephram a few years later. He hates the bastard even more now. (He'd never admit it, but he was a little more than happy when the glory stealing fucker disappeared.)
He spends the next century and a half living different lives, never more than twenty five years at a time. The first few lives he leaves the military behind, opting for science and medicine instead. He's fucking good at it, and they know it. He struggles to live with the limelight the first couple of times, before he learns how to tone down the 'genius'. He does join the Starfleet Marine Corps once. The memories hurt too much, though, and the first time that a mission takes them out to space it makes him sick to his stomach. It's not hard to figure out that he doesn't want to be a soldier anymore, even if he's fucking good at that, too.
So he sticks to medicine. Different states, sometimes even different continents or planets. The space travel never gets easier, though, and he avoids transporters like the plague. He keeps it simple, makes sure there's never a way to track him, a way to link any of his personas together. It also means that he often manipulates things so that other doctors and scientists get the credit for his breakthroughs, but it doesn't bother him that much. He thinks that, maybe, Sam would be proud of him.
"Does it ever bother you? You could've spent your life looking in a microscope instead of a sniper scope?"
It never had before.
He finally grows a large enough pair to try a relationship. It fails – epically – and ends with his ex-wife threatening his life if he didn't fuck the hell off. There's still his daughter, but until she's eighteen he can't even look in her direction. He deserved that, marrying a cold-hearted bitch like Jo. So he does the one thing he promised himself he'd never do again. He enlists in Starfleet, as a doctor and not a soldier, and heads back out to space.
Fucking space, fucking aliens. He's irritated enough that he rants at some random kid.
It takes a year for that goddamned kid to worm his way under his skin. Two years later, and it's the first time in almost two hundred years that he can say, honestly say, that he has a best friend again – and it's Jim fucking Kirk, the biggest trouble magnet this side of the galaxy. He even starts to respect the little shit, but he only realizes how much when the kid asks him to be the Chief Medical Officer on board the Enterprise, and he feels honoured. He knows he's grown attached himself when he almost digs out the last of the C-24 to save Jim's life after the whole fiasco with Khan.
It's the first time he thinks about leaving, about starting a new life back on earth. He was getting too close... and close was bad. Close meant secrets becoming exposed. Close meant people looking where they shouldn't. Close meant being blinded by his own emotions and almost turning his friend and captain into a mutated monstrosity.
But then the cocky sonovabitch wakes up and he's just so relieved, he promises he'll follow him to hell and back. So it's back out into space for a five year mission, and everyone is so excited he can practically taste it on the air.
He doesn't forget how close he came to breaking, though. He also doesn't forget his promise.
If only he'd known how prophetic that promise would be.